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Thanksgiving is a holiday we all think we observe but which we only observe in part. A look at the holiday in any given year shows that it has become an occasion for dining, loafing, and watching television. It is viewed as the beginning of the buying season for Christmas. The underlying reason for Thanksgiving is barely noted any longer, and only schoolchildren come close to celebrating the underlying reason for giving thanks to the degree that they remember the First Thanksgiving, or at least some of its symbolism. This can be said of many holidays, of course, since we more and more view holidays as little more than a day to take off work, but somehow Thanksgiving promises more in its very name than we tend to give it in practice.

We knew that Thanksgiving had a specific meaning when we were in school because each year we would decorate the halls and classrooms with icons of the first celebration when the Pilgrims reportedly held a feast in conjunction with local Indian tribes to celebrate living through the first year and prospering. The feast element comes from this very sense of success, since the bounty the Pilgrims produced was brought to the table as proof that they had been successful in growing certain crops given them by the Indians (such as maize) and in either raising or successfully hunting certain domestic and wild animals. It is not clear whether the settlers really had turkey for Thanksgiving, but somewhere along the way that element was added to the story and became a potent symbol for the holiday. We all learned this in school and emulated it by cutting out or painting pictures of turkeys, Pilgrims, Indians, and a cornucopia holding grains, corn, vegetables, and other foodstuffs to show the crops had been good. Also emphasized was the importance of giving thanks, for that is what the Pilgrims were doing and what young people were encouraged to do.

Looking around at my own family and friends, however, ...

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Thanksgiving. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:44, May 31, 2020, from